Welcome, DC Commuters

Welcome DC Commuters

Rich Green of Arlington, Virginia is upset. He drives his car across the Potomac to his job in Washington, DC five days a week and there are potholes in the road.

“Most of the potholes seem to stick around for months, and they can get to be more than six inches deep,” he wrote to the Washington Post. “Who is responsible for this section of road, and why don’t they repair the potholes …?” he asked.

Mr. Green did not ask who is responsible for causing the potholes or suggest who should pay for repairs.

Others fill in these potholes lacunae in Mr. Green’s complaint:

As a resident of Virginia and a wage earner in Washington, Mr. Green is one of a privileged few in this country … because he has representatives in Congress [who forbid a DC payroll tax] but the District [cannot vote in Congress]…. Every other wage earner in the country pays taxes where they work, not live.  …. The DC exception to this normal rule of taxation allows folks like Mr Green to pay millions of dollars to Virginia instead.  Think of how many DC potholes could be filled if all residents of Maryland and Virginia who work in DC paid taxes like everyone else in the country!” — Washingtonpost.com commenter jimcope

“…is Mr. Green offering to have some of his income taxes diverted from Virginia to the District to pay for the extra services he demands?” — Washingtonpost.com commenter otherquaker

“… you work near Union Station. Have you … considered taking the Metro?” — Washingtonpost.com commenter LionelMandrake


Image by Mike Licht (via atom.smasher.org). Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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9 Responses to “Welcome, DC Commuters”

  1. David T Says:

    I know that this is not exactly on topic, but in studying the image above, I see that the original image was taken in my own home state of Minnesota, along I-494 in Bloomington. I could tell because A) I’ve driven this route many times, B) there is snow on the ground, and C) the sign is for Bush Lake Road. Just thought that was cool…

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    David T:

    That is cool. Another commenter on another site even provided a satellite photo.

    Do Bloomington residents who work in Minneapolis and St. Paul pay a small percentage in payroll tax to cover some local costs? Since the suburb and hub are in the same state, perhaps there is a state or regional solution, something not possible in the case of DC.

    As for snow, Mr. Obama is correct — DC is full of snowy-weather wimps.

  3. Mike Licht Says:

    Commenters at Greater Greater Washington fill in more potholes on this highway of horror:

    The ban on commuter and reciprocal taxes for non-residents working in the District has nothing to do with the Constitution, it’s a Congressional mandate that Congress could change at will (it’s section 602(a)(5) of the Home Rule Act …)….. Hell, if Maryland or Virginia wanted to take the high road, they could set up a reciprocal or commuter tax for the District without needing Congressional approval …. — GreaterGreaterWashington.org commenter cminus.

    I’m not aware of a commuter tax, but the region is probably the only one to have true regional tax base sharing …. Also, remember that the Twin Cities are far more fragmented than most regions, being that they have two core cities each in the range of 300,000 people, both hemmed in by established suburban municipalities. Minneapolis is the clear hub, but no one jurisdiction dominates, thus the interdependence makes things like tax base sharing more palatable. — GreaterGreaterWashington.org commenter Alex B.

  4. Rob B Says:

    No, Bloomington residents do not directly pay for road maintenance in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but it is a very different system there. Unlike the national capital area, Bloomington, Minneapolis and St. Paul are in the same state, so the gasoline and other taxes that support road maintenance are spread around the state. There is no commuter tax issue, except for the small number of people that commute from Wisconsin.

    Some transportation systems (bus, light rail, airports) are run by the Metropolitan Council which includes the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. About 10% of the Met Council funding comes from a property tax; the remainder comes from State revenues and fees the Met Council collects (e.g., sewer fees, bus fares, airport concessions). So, Bloomington residents do support MTC buses and light rail through their state taxes, but so do residents of International Falls, Pipestone, Grand Forks, Rochester and other parts of the state.

  5. Mike Licht Says:

    Rhetoric Alert:

    Payroll taxes predate WWII as a mechanism for recovering some of the economic burdens suburban commuting places on US municipalities.

    If you are against such things, call them “commuter taxes;” if you are for them, call them “payroll taxes.”

    DC politicians habitually campaign for local votes by ignoring this simple rule, to the detriment of their cause.

  6. Ward 1 Guy Says:

    This gives me an idea. Shouldn’t DC just set up potholes/road obstructions on purpose on all the major entryways to the city filling them every evening/weekend to get around the Home Fool ban on the commuter tax? We’d leave the commuter traps in place until MD and VA (or Congress) agreed to repeal the abusive ban and make people pay income taxes where they earn their income.

    I assume they’ve already written some rule/law that prevents DC from simply setting up a weekday morning entry toll for the VA bridges.

  7. user Says:

    Off Topic: I recognize that freeway also. Photo is definitely Minnesota’s 494 East bound, but it must have been taken several years ago due to recent road construction it is now a 4 lane road. Common photo by the way. Another version out there states “Some a**hole talking on his cell phone got creamed.”

  8. JWB Says:

    If you are going to truly have a commuter tax why just MD & VA, there are a large number of other communters (100 + Senators & 400+ Representatives) from other states that commute to the district to work. Now add in a large percentage of commuters that arrive via train from PA and NY they should also be added. Now that you tax all the communters maybe all the communters will stop coming to DC to eat see ball games, visit all the sites, cultural activities etc. When that happens then the other revenue stream drops, from receipts, cabbies, Starbucks to name others. Where will DC government go then to get their money. I would say pressure to become a state would be a better avenue to pursue. DC government gives up to easy and looks for the easy way.

  9. Mike Licht Says:

    JWB wrote:

    If you are going to truly have a commuter tax

    No — only tax opponents and DC politcal hacks call it that. DC needs a payroll tax — virtually every other US metropolitan area has one. Read the post above to find out why.

    there are a large number of other communters (100 + Senators & 400+ Representatives) from other states that commute

    DC does not tax military personnel stationed here who claim residence in others states, and does not tax members of congress “stationed” here, either.

    Now add in a large percentage of commuters that arrive via train from PA and NY they should also be added.

    Absolutely — through a payroll tax.

    maybe all the communters will stop coming to DC to eat see ball games, visit all the sites, cultural activities etc.

    Why? And who cares? DC gets nothing but a headache from commuters who eat and shop at Smithsonian facilities, the Kennedy Center, and other federal sites where the gift shops and eateries collect no DC sales tax. Basketball, baseball, and hockey fans Metro in, see games, and leave without spending anything elsewhere.

    And the so-called Washington Redskins already play in the suburbs, anyway.

    Starbucks to name others

    There’s a Starbucks in every subsrban strip mall in the galaxy — they don’t need to come to town to get a cup of java.

    You seem to miss the point that payroll taxes are deducted from the taxpayer’s federal and residential state inccome tax, so it is no hardship on the individual.

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